The iconic Boeing 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’ is facing an uncertain future today, as the factory supplying the manufacturer with the fuselages for the type is preparing to close its doors. Triumph Aerostructures, a subsidiary of the Triumph Group, plans to end operations at its South California plant by December 6th, leaving Boeing with a tough choice to make.
The beginning of the end?
The future for the iconic 747 jumbo is in doubt today as news has arisen that the factory producing its fuselage is being shut down. Bloomberg reports that the Southern California factory of Triumph Group is winding up operations, with an auction already held yesterday to clear out some of its gear.
The Triumph Group has produced every single fuselage for Boeing’s 747 aircraft since the launch of the type back in 1970. In fact, production at the Hawthorne site began as early as 1966, after Pan American World Airways placed the first order for the jumbo.
According to a press release, Triumph Aerostructures is closing two of its facilities, this one in Hawthorne and also one in Torrance California. It is liquidating its assets from both sites via multiple online auctions, the first of which took place yesterday. The first auction included the sale of more than 200 lots, ranging from forklifts to CNC machining centers and MRO materials.
Triumph plans to cease operations in both its factories by the 6th of December this year.
The winding down of the 747
The Boeing 747 was once seen as the pinnacle of flying. Its massive passenger capacity, huge range and iconic looks made it a favorite with passengers and airlines alike throughout the 80s and 90s. However, modern advancements in technology and a shift in network strategies has left the 747 lacking in orders from commercial airlines.
Previously, Boeing had looked to the cargo industry to keep sales of the 747 flowing. The boom in online shopping helped to bolster sales in recent years, with an order for 14 of the 747-8F model by UPS in 2018 seen as a lifeline for production. However, the US-China trade war has dulled the appetite for international freight, and no new sales of the type were recorded in 2019.
Right now, just 18 orders remain in the backlog. Due to the slow production of the 747, this actually equates to a further three years of production. Apparently Triumph is working ahead of schedule in an attempt to fulfil all outstanding orders before the closure of the plant next month. However, it is also shutting down a Dallas based factory in the near future, which supplies the tail sections, floor beams and a number of other parts.
Could Boeing keep the 747 production alive?
It would take a great deal of effort and investment to keep the 747 production alive once Triumph shuts its doors for good. Of course, Boeing has the option of taking production in house, but for such a large airframe with such a small demand, the costs could certainly outweigh the benefits.
Simple Flying has reached out to Boeing for input on this news, and will update this article when we hear back.